5/10/2017Iowa Court Rejected IIHS Expert Witness
State of Iowa successfully argued in court that the insurance industry had no business sending an expert witness to speed camera litigation.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has once again been chided by a state government for its red light cameras and speed camera promotion efforts. Months after being admonished by the Virginia Department of Transportation for illegally setting up photo radar on freeways, the insurance industry's public relations arm was embarrassed by having its senior vice president for research excluded from an Iowa courtroom.
Polk County Judge Scott D. Rosenberg last month decided that local jurisdictions were subject to Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) rules when placing photo radar devices on freeways (view ruling), but before he made that call, Anne T. McCartt, the top researcher at IIHS, wanted to testify in favor of automated ticketing.
"It is unnecessary and a waste of resources to require communities to prove their use of automated speed enforcement is reducing speeding behavior and crashes," McCartt wrote in a September 21, 2016 report for the municipalities. "In my professional opinion, the methodology, basis and justification for removing the automated traffic enforcement devices are arbitrary and not based on the most reliable evidence."
McCartt holds a doctorate from the Rockefeller School of Public Affairs, which offers degrees only in public administration or politics. IIHS is funded by major insurance companies that earn additional revenue from photo ticket recipients in Arizona, California and a handful of other states where such tickets carry license points. Officials in the Iowa DOT and attorney general's office decided McCartt's "professional opinion" was not relevant to the case.
"A municipal automated traffic enforcement fine... is exactly the kind of activity that should be regularly evaluated and monitored in order to determine if it is, in fact, actually working," Iowa Special Assistant Attorney General David S. Gorham wrote. "This is especially the case with automated traffic enforcement usage because... automated traffic enforcement units could (unless properly regulated) be moved to any location on any road at the whim of the city or its automated traffic enforcement vendor."
The attorney general's office fell just short of accusing McCartt of practicing law without a license.
"Finally, the excerpts from Ms. McCartt's report wherein she opines that DOT's automated traffic enforcement rules are a 'waste of resources'... is nothing more than a rehash of the cities' 'home rule' legal argument cleverly disguised as an expert opinion," Gorham wrote. "This is not an appropriate area for expert testimony. The court can analyze petitioners' legal 'home rule' arguments on its own, without Ms. McCartt's assistance."
Judge Rosenberg agreed and issued an order on December 23 excluding McCartt as a witness.